Hygiene partnerships

Unilever continues to work with local and international organisations to find effective means of promoting healthy hygiene habits at home.

Unilever Foundation

Through the Unilever Foundation, launched in 2012, we are partnering with five leading global organisations – Oxfam, PSI, Save the Children, UNICEF and the World Food Programme.

With PSI (Population Services International) we are working to make a tangible contribution to improving the health of children and families, by delivering behaviour change interventions that focus on handwashing, clean drinking water and sanitation. In 2012 we worked together on the Lifebuoy handwashing programme in schools in rural Kenya and Zimbabwe. The projects have changed the hygiene behaviour of an estimated 1.3 million people by promoting the benefits of handwashing with soap at key times.

With UNICEF we are improving sanitation in developing countries through UNICEF’s Community Approaches to Total Sanitation (CATS) initiative, which aims to promote demand for sanitation at the community level. By supporting Save the Children’s EVERY ONE campaign we are improving access to health workers and life-saving vaccines, and ensuring children in need are reached with high-impact health and nutrition programmes.

Water & Sanitation for the Urban Poor

We have been involved with Water & Sanitation for the Urban Poor (WSUP) since it was established in 2004. WSUP is a partnership between the private sector, civil society and academics. It is addressing the increasing global problem of inadequate access to water and sanitation for the urban poor. WSUP also focuses on the achievement of the Millennium Development Goal targets, particularly those relating to water and sanitation.

Most recently we have been running school programmes with WSUP in Kenya and Bangladesh. See Promoting handwashing for more information.

International Scientific Forum on Home Hygiene

Unilever is a founding sponsor of the International Scientific Forum on Home Hygiene (IFH) which was set up in 1997 to promote health and well-being through improved hygiene in the home and the community. IFH is a not-for-profit NGO which works with health professionals, government agencies and public health scientists to help prevent the spread of infectious diseases by better home hygiene. Its scientific material is available to all online.

IFH has developed a new approach to hygiene in the home and community known as ‘targeted hygiene’. This aims to break the chain of infection transmission at critical points, before germs spread any further, rather than relying on unfocused cleaning, however thorough.

Our homecare products such as Domestos (bleach-based cleaners) and Glorix (surface and bathroom cleaners) are designed to provide solutions for everyday hygiene needs in homes across the world. We seek to educate consumers on the correct use of products in order to protect themselves and their families.

Exploring hygiene and reporting findings

Unilever commissioned IFH to review targeted hygiene as a possible framework for a sustainable approach to hygiene. IFH’s report, published in March 2010, was shared with the EU and industry groups.

In 2012 the IFH published a report exploring the ‘hygiene hypothesis’ – the suggestion that the rise in allergies in recent years is a result of living in sterile homes and overdoing hygiene. The report dispels this notion but concludes that losing touch with microbial ‘old friends’ may be a fundamental factor underlying the rise in a wider array of diseases.

In a study sponsored by Hindustan Unilever, IFH published a report on the risks and benefits of using mud or ash for handwashing, rather than soap – a practice that is common in low-income developing countries. The report concluded that mud and ash are more effective than water alone, but less effective than soap.

Other projects include a report on the global burden of hygiene-related infectious disease, and a briefing document on the Influenza A (H1N1) virus which we used during the influenza outbreak to provide guidance and practical advice to consumers through our Domestos websites and carelines.

British Skin Foundation

Our Comfort Pure fabric conditioner team works with many childcare experts such as the National Childbirth Trust and its research into skincare is supported by the British Skin Foundation (BSF).

Working closely with the British Association of Dermatologists, patient support groups and many of the country’s leading dermatology departments, the BSF is the only charity dedicated to supporting dermatologists and skin science.

To support their own research, companies and brands (such as Comfort Pure) approach the British Skin Foundation for an independent view. BSF dermatologists visit these companies’ laboratories, discuss skin health issues with their scientists and are given full access to product research and data.

A product carrying the BSF logo means that the British Skin Foundation has independently approved the research that has gone into it.